How Gareth Southgate's Preston visit hinted at recipe for England World Cup success
When he visited a Preston soccer school in 2015 now England boss Gareth Southgate gave a hint into the ideology that would propel the Three Lions to a World Cup semi-final against Croatia.
Southgate, 47, announced his England U21 squad for the UEFA Under-21s Championship qualifiers at Preston North End’s community soccer school programme back in August 2015.
Southgate was in the city to name his now England number one, Columbia penalty shoot-out hero and then North End shot-stopper Jordan Pickford in his U21 squad ahead of the international friendly clash against the USA Under-23s at Deepdale.
But he did not just announce his squad and jet-off, the ex-Middlesbrough man took time to look around Preston North End’s thriving grassroots set-up and meet the stars of the future.
More than 100 children took part at Playfootball Preston, in Tag Lane, Ingol and met Southgate, who was elevated to the full England managerial role a year later in 2016.
For Southgate the message was simple, that the Preston school’s ethos of enjoying football, making friends and gaining confidence is something that should never change.
His words back then could still be relevant in the build up to Wednesday night’s big game as he hopes to steer England to their first World Cup final since 1966.
Southgate told Post reporter Rosie Swarbrick: “It is good fun. I think it is always nice to come back and see.
“Players that come into our (U21) squad, why did they start playing? It is because of things like this.
“Coming in the school holidays, enjoying their football, making new friends and gaining confidence.
“That should never change really as a player, although sometimes the focus does change a bit.”